- Dave Dombrowski Out As Tigers GM; Al Avila Named Replacement
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Allen Craig Rumors
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe conducted a Q&A with Red Sox CEO/president Larry Lucchino over the weekend, and the two discussed a number of issues with what has been an uninspiring roster for much of the season. Shaugnessy notes early on, before getting to the Q&A, that it seems that Lucchino’s role has diminished given his involvement in the building of a new Rhode Island stadium for the club’s Triple-A affiliate and his role in Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics. Lucchino, however, denies that he’s less involved than in previous years. “I’ve had to throw myself into Pawtucket quite a bit because of [PawSox owner] Jim Skeffington’s death,” said Lucchino. “…It’s part of my Red Sox responsibility. The Olympics take a very small amount of my time. They asked me to take a larger role, but I demurred.”
Some roster-related highlights from the Q&A, as well as a couple other notes pertaining to the 2013 champs…
- Lucchino said he understands the comparisons that are being made between the Hanley Ramirez/Pablo Sandoval signings and the Carl Crawford signing/Adrian Gonzalez extension, but the team certainly never intended to duplicate the aggressive philosophy they showed in 2011. Asked if the Red Sox need to question their evaluation skills in light of those signings as well as the Rick Porcello extension and John Lackey trade, Lucchino replied, “We’re not immune to second-guessing ourselves, but I do think a little more water needs to run underneath the bridge before you can effectively evaluate some of these most recent transactions.”
- Shaughnessy pressed a bit on the Lackey trade in particular, noting that both of the players received in that deal — Joe Kelly and Allen Craig — are now in the minor leagues. Lucchino admitted that the trade looks dismal: “It certainly looks like that deal didn’t result in the kind of gains we thought we’d have in the major leagues. But both of those guys still play for the [Pawtucket] Red Sox and no one has given up on the pitching contributions that Joe Kelly can make in the future.” This is likely reading too much into the comment, but I find it interesting that he didn’t voice a similar vote of confidence in Craig.
- Lucchino voiced the same confidence in GM Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell that Red Sox owner John Henry has previously expressed. He also repeatedly said he’s yet to wave the white flag on the 2015 season, and the team will reassess more at the tail end of July.
- In an interview with WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford, Red Sox vice president of player personnel took exception to the narrative that Rusney Castillo was signed based on workouts as opposed to in-game experience. Baird explains that the Red Sox saw Castillo in international play as well as on video from Cuba. Additionally, while owner John Henry has noted in the past that missing out on Jose Abreu may have played a role in Boston’s aggressive pursuit of Castillo, Baird says that the Red Sox did their homework on Castillo. While Castillo certainly hasn’t performed at the level of Abreu, or even fellow countryman Yasmany Tomas, I’d add that it’s still early in his contract, and he’s been slowed by injuries as well.
- The Red Sox were originally optimistic about Hanley Ramirez’s hand after X-rays came back negative, but as Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald wrote yesterday, Ramirez is traveling back to Boston to receive an MRI due to persistent discomfort. Ramirez was hit by a line-drive while running the bases last Wednesday, and manager John Farrell told him that the pain worsened over the weekend. A trip to the disabled list is possible, writes Mastrodonato.
While all five AL East teams have clear roster needs, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe observes that the division is so closely-packed (and overall mediocre) through two months that one team could break away from the pack simply by getting healthy and playing up to expectations, rather than by making a big trade or two. Here are some hot stove items from Cafardo’s latest Sunday Notes column…
- “I don’t see us making a major acquisition for a pitcher [at this time] but I’m not going to say I wouldn’t do it,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. As Cafardo notes, the returns of Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova could bolster the rotation, and prospect Luis Severino could also provide some late-season help.
- Reds right-hander Mike Leake is considered by one AL scout to be able to “pitch in either league with no problem” and at the trade deadline, “there might be more action on him than any pitcher out there.” The Reds could be looking to deal the free agent-to-be since they didn’t discuss an extension with him during the offseason.
- Leake’s trade value may be improved by the fact that teammate Johnny Cueto and the Athletics‘ Scott Kazmir (two more pending free agents) have recently been dealing with elbow and shoulder problems, respectively. Teams will need to see a few healthy outings from both pitchers before their trade interest can be rejuvenated.
- The Dodgers were scouting the Red Sox during their series with the Twins last week. Cafardo notes that L.A. is looking for relief help.
- With Matt Adams gone for possibly the entire season and the Cardinals in need of first base help, Cafardo opines that Allen Craig could be a possible trade fit. Craig’s contract, of course, is a major obstacle, not to mention the fact that St. Louis felt comfortable dealing Craig away last summer. Craig is hitting well at Triple-A but Cafardo writes that it might take “another two weeks of good hitting” for Craig to earn a call-up back to the Red Sox.
- With Trevor Plouffe playing well as the Twins‘ regular third baseman, Cafardo wonders if Minnesota would consider a position change for star prospect Miguel Sano. There has already been a lot of speculation that Sano might be not be able to handle playing third over the long term, though Plouffe is also not a great defensive option. Of greater concern for the Twins right now is Sano’s recovery from Tommy John surgery, and the early results are pretty good, as Sano is hitting .247/.346/.488 over 191 Double-A plate appearances.
It is by now well-documented that Allen Craig of the Red Sox has experienced a significant decline at the plate, leading to his outright off of the 40-man roster. But as Alex Speier of the Boston Globe explains, the fall-off has been so steep that it actually has historical dimensions. Looking at other players who posted consistently strong batting lines in their age-26 to 28 seasons, Speier shows that no other player has fallen as far as has Craig (62 OPS+) in the following two years. There could, of course, still be some hope of a turnaround given the complicated role that injuries in his struggles and the fact that he is still only 30.
- Rays lefty Drew Smyly appears to be reconsidering the surgical route and could instead attempt to rest and then rehab his ailing left shoulder, ESPN.com reports. It’s not clear what precipitated the changed approach, but manager Kevin Cash says that the current plan may allow Smyly to return later this year. “We’re optimistic,” Cash said. “We’re hearing good things.” While any return to action would, at this point, presumably be rather late in the year — Smyly was just placed on the 60-day DL and would obviously require a lengthy resting and rebuilding process — the realistic possibility of a return could impact the team’s summer trade market plans.
- The Yankees good news on Jacoby Ellsbury, who will not need surgery on his just-injured right knee, as Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com reports. “It is not anything that requires surgery so we are not holding anything that is doom or gloom,” said manager Joe Girardi. “We just have to see how he responds over the next few days and see what [team doctor Chris] Ahmad says.”
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are still set to be without outfielder Michael Saunders for three to five weeks, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm reports. Saunders says he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee that arose out of his recent surgery to remove his meniscus. The Jays are still bringing up the rear in the division, of course, and will hope that Saunders can return to action sooner rather than later.
The Red Sox announced this afternoon that first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, meaning that he is no longer on the club’s 40-man roster.
That Craig cleared waivers unclaimed isn’t necessarily a surprise, given the lack of production he’s experienced in the past two seasons and the significant amount of money that remains on his contract. Had any team claimed the 30-year-old Craig on waivers, they would have been required to assume the remaining $25.2MM that he is owed through the end of the 2017 season. The outright does put an exclamation point on what has been an exceptionally sudden fall for Craig, who as recently as 2013 was one of the Cardinals’ most productive bats.
Craig suffered a lisfranc fracture in his foot at the end of the 2013 season and was never himself in 2014 before reaggravating his left foot following a trade to Boston. (Craig, along with Joe Kelly, joined the Sox in exchange for John Lackey.) Over his past 564 Major League plate appearances, Craig is hitting just .207/.275/.302. The Sox had already optioned him to Triple-A earlier this month, but the outright removes him from the 40-man roster, which is now at 37.
Craig, technically, has the right to refuse his outright assignment, but doing so would mean forfeiting the money remaining on his contract, so he’ll remain with Triple-A Pawtucket in hopes of rediscovering his stroke. Boston’s offense has struggled of late and has been anemic all season long when facing left-handed pitching, so a productive Craig would go a long ways toward boosting the team’s overall outlook. In 25 plate appearances at Pawtucket thus far, Craig is hitting .261/.320/.391 with three doubles.
Chris Young‘s career turned on a 1,168-word email the Royals right-hander wrote to a St. Louis surgeon in 2013 where he diagnosed himself as suffering from thoracic outlet syndrome, writes Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star. Dr. Robert Thompson, director of the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome concurred, and performed a decompression procedure to free the nerves in Young’s shoulder. “I feel better now at 35 than I did when I was in my late 20s, early 30s, because I was dealing with so much pain,” Young said. “I forgot what it was like to be healthy. Now I try to make up for lost time.” And that he has. Nearly two years after undergoing the career-saving operation, Young, the reigning AL Comeback Player of the Year, has been a relevation for the Royals pitching to a 1.06 ERA in seven games (including one start) with a 8.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 17 innings of work.
Elsewhere in the American League:
- The next start for Tigers ace David Price will be pushed back from Thursday to Saturday to give his mild hamstring strain extra time to heal, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press (Twitter links). Price says he could have pitched on normal rest, so the move is simply precautionary.
- The Tigers have a need for a left-handed power bat off the bench, but risk losing out-of-options infielder Hernan Perez to waivers if they attempt such an move, according to MLive.com’s Chris Iott.
- After throwing 108 pitches in winning his MLB debut as a starter, the White Sox remain coy on whether Carlos Rodon will remain in the rotation or return to the bullpen, writes MLB.com’s Scott Merkin. “You’re also somewhat protecting the amount of usage you’re going to get out of him over the course of the year, so there’s some factors that go into it for him and his learning curve and things like that,” said manager Robin Ventura. “There’s more to it than he’s just ready to go.” If Rodon remains in the rotation for the rest of the season, Merkin calculates the left-hander will approach the team’s unofficial innings limit of 160.
- The Red Sox‘s July 2014 trade of John Lackey for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly is looking worse and worse, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines. Craig performed poorly down the stretch in 2014 for the Red Sox and has been just as bad this year, and while Kelly’s radar gun readings have been impressive, his performance hasn’t (although his peripherals this season have been much better than his 5.72 ERA). Meanwhile, Lackey has pitched well for the Cardinals while making the league minimum salary.
6:42pm: The Red Sox will option Craig to the minors, Mastrodonato tweets.
5:11pm: A struggling Red Sox team appears set to shake up its roster, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. Roster moves are “under discussion right now,” according to manager John Farrell. Michael Silverman, also of the Herald, tweets that one possible move could be a trade of outfielder Allen Craig. The team could also option Craig to the minors. Mastrodonato writes that Craig was in Farrell’s office with the door closed this afternoon.
Meanwhile, outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has hit well for Triple-A Pawtucket, was scratched from the PawSox’ game Saturday. Mastrodonato notes that if Bradley were promoted, he could play center field against many righties, with Mookie Betts moving to right and Shane Victorino (who’s currently on a rehab assignment at Double-A Portland) playing right field against lefties.
It would likely be easier for the Red Sox to option Craig than to trade him. He’s off to a .146/.255/.208 start and also hit poorly last year, and he has about $25MM remaining on his contract. It would appear that the only way to trade him, then, would be to eat a significant amount of salary in the process. Hitting coach Chili Davis says he believes Craig needs to play every day to regain his hitting stroke, so perhaps a stint at Pawtucket could help rebuild his value.
The Phillies are “waiting with open arms” to find the right trade for at least one of their big-name veteran players, a major league official tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. That list of big names, of course, includes ace Cole Hamels, though Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley could also be moved, Cafardo writes. Amaro recently told reporters that he’s willing to eat part of Hamels’ contract in a trade if necessary, and that could help bring about a deal for the Phillies. More from today’s column..
- Major league sources tell Cafardo that the tampering investigation brought by Rays owner Stuart Sternberg against the Cubs for their hiring of Joe Maddon was reopened when Sternberg objected to the original verdict. In the end, however, it was found that there was no tampering in the negotiations.
- Marlins GM Dan Jennings thought he had trade possibilities for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was designated for assignment last week. He’s currently in the 10-day limbo period in which he could be traded, claimed, or put on waivers.
- Scouts are still waiting for Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig to bust out and it appears Boston is going to play him more to boost his trade value. Cafardo notes that Craig has historically hit well in the month of May.
- The Red Sox are trying to create roster versatility by using players at different positions. Shortstop Deven Marrero is the team’s latest experiment after seeing time at second base. One NL scout isn’t so wild about the concept. “He’s a terrific athlete so he’ll do well at the other positions, but this is the type of guy where you know he’s a terrific shortstop so why mess around with that?” said the scout. “He’s got high confidence as a shortstop and now you’re reducing that confidence level by making him play positions he’s not used to.”
Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.
Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…
- The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
- Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
- One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
- An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
- David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
- Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.
Here’s the latest from the American League East:
- The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
- Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.
TODAY: The Giants’ inquiry regarding Craig actually took place before Spring Training opened, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports on Twitter. In other words, it was not in response to Pence’s injury.
YESTERDAY: As they prepare to open the season without star right fielder Hunter Pence, the Giants are not presently in active pursuit of another outfield option, Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com reports on Twitter. If an addition is made, says Gammons, the club would be looking for a power bat.
San Francisco did recently inquire with the Red Sox on veteran Allen Craig, per the report, but found that Boston was not interested in “selling low.” Craig’s name has come up repeatedly this winter as a trade candidate; after struggling through 2014 and heading to the Sox in a deadline deal, he found himself battling with numerous other viable candidates for a roster spot. His trade value, of course, is weighed down by the $26.5MM left on his contract. Most recently, however, reports out of Boston indicated that the team expects to open the season with him on the 25-man roster.
While losing Pence for a significant stretch was undoubtedly a blow, it is at least somewhat surprising to learn that the team actually showed interest in Craig, particularly since he would not appear to have much of a role when Pence returns. After all, the Giants seemingly utilized their available payroll space over the offseason, and have a reasonable temporary replacement in Gregor Blanco.
On the other hand, the club does figure to have a rather left-leaning lineup at present. Regardless, the report seemingly suggests that San Francisco was not inclined to take on a large portion of Craig’s deal, echoing prior reports that the team would only be interested in a low-risk acquisition of the former All-Star. And with no current efforts underway, Blanco remains the odds-on favorite to keep Pence’s seat warm in the season’s early going.